Cedar Rapids eyes fireworks ban before next use window

Sales within city limits now limited to industrial zones

A semi truck advertises deals at a Bellino Fireworks stand located in a parking lot on Edgewood Road Southwest and Williams Boulevard Southwest in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. The stand's manager said they sold nearly all of their inventory. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A semi truck advertises deals at a Bellino Fireworks stand located in a parking lot on Edgewood Road Southwest and Williams Boulevard Southwest in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. The stand's manager said they sold nearly all of their inventory. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa’s next legal fireworks period centered on New Year’s Eve begins on Dec. 10, but after a noisy summer trial, Cedar Rapids is doing all it can to skip the festivities.

The Cedar Rapids City Council advanced a ban on consumer fireworks use and finalized a major restriction to where fireworks can be sold, during a meeting on Tuesday.

“Hopefully, let residents live in peace,” Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said of what impact the changes would have, adding, “If we catch violators, they will be fined.”

The Cedar Rapids City Council voted 9-0 to approve a fireworks ban with no questions or comments on Tuesday. The council could finalize the ban at the next meeting on Dec. 5. The timing would allow the ban to become law on Dec. 9, one day before the legal fireworks period begins, said Vance McKinnon III, the Cedar Rapids fire marshal.

The council voted 8-0, with council member Ann Poe abstaining, to restrict sales to industrial zones, which make up about 14 percent of Cedar Rapids.

A state law passed earlier this year granted two periods each year to shoot off and sell fireworks — one around the Fourth of July and the other around New Year’s Eve. The next period goes from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Cities around the state have been grappling with how best to approach the new rules.

Residents will still be allowed to use fireworks in the county and other communities. Marion, for example, voted to restrict fireworks use to noon to 11 p.m. on July 4 and from 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. on Jan 1.

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McKinnon said the ban on fireworks has been the recommendation from the city’s public safety officials from the beginning.

The City Council ignored the recommendation and gave fireworks a go from June 1 to July 8, but citizens pushed back as fireworks exploded around the clock.

City Council member Susie Weinacht, who helped craft the new rules, said a “zero tolerance” policy is what police officers need to crack down on those using fireworks. Windows where fireworks are legal just muddies the water, she said.

“Enforcement is what weighed heavily on this,” she said.

Jennifer Pratt, the community development director who worked on the sales restriction component, said Cedar Rapidians no longer will see tents popped up along commercial strips or fireworks sold in big box stores. She said thus far local businesses have made no complaints to the changes.

“We are trying to get commercial corridors to be walkable,” Pratt said. “It’s counter productive to put hazardous materials there.”

Vendors will still need to get state and city licenses to sell fireworks in Cedar Rapids. At least one vendor already has requested a license.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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